Blueberry Coconut Pancakes with Coconut Yogurt

Makes about 10 (1/4c) pancakes

Blueberry Coconut Pancakes

I get excited about food.  Back in the States, the days we got our CSA boxes were happy days.  My husband and I would go through the box, checking out our goods while talking about this meal or that for each beautiful piece of produce we touched.  Here in the UAE, that excitement has doubled…at least doubled!  We don’t get the exotic, heirloom treasures that the Hudson Valley has given us over the years but then again, we do live in the desert.  And I don’t mean that figuratively.  We actually live in a desert.  So, any produce (and so far we’ve gotten arugula (aka rocket), strawberries, peppers, sweet potatoes, chard, beets, carrots, celery, green beans, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, a whole bunch of fresh herbs, organic eggs, organic, low-heat pasteurized milk, to name a few) we get that is local AND organic is amazing!  What really doubles our excitement is that Claire is now very much a part of our conversation and investigation of our beloved farm fresh boxes.

This week she went straight for the blueberries.   Like mother, like daughter.  They were like blue little pearls peeking up at us underneath all that glorious green.  They were irresistible.  While Claire got through one box, I managed to put another away for a special breakfast.  Little did I know how special it would turn out.

Berries in general are super stars (and why you should always go organic when buying some).  When you hear about blueberries especially, and their amazing health promoting properties, the first word to come to mind is likely, antioxidants.  And, rightfully so! Blueberries are not messing around when it comes to its antioxidant power.  What’s special about it is that the antioxidants in blueberries offer whole body support.  Each and every system in our bodies, from the cardiovascular system to the nervous system to the digestive system, benefits from the antioxidants in blueberries.

Another word that should come to mind is, phytonutrients.  While anthocyanins are the most popular, given that the berries get their blue from them, there are a myriad of other phytonutrients that work together to make this berry the super star it is.  Got cholesterol issues to deal with?  Eat blueberries.  Need a cognitive boost (as in memory, especially)?  Eat blueberries.  Got insulin issues to contend with?  Eat blueberries.  Want general protection from cancer?  Eat blueberries.

I’m sure by now you’re getting my drift.

More good news.  If you find yourself having to freeze blueberries, or buying frozen blueberries, you won’t be compromising much of the antioxidants at all!  Buy out your farmer’s blueberries and make a home in your freezer for them.  This way you can enjoy this super berry all year long!

On to the recipe now.  It became this on its own.  I’m not sure what I even had in mind anymore, but this one is a winner.  If you’re a GF eater, opt out the spelt for GF all-purpose flour OR GF oat flour.  My new favorite topping for pancakes is yogurt and I can get some pretty decadent yogurt here!  Next time I may try putting the yogurt into the actual batter to see how that goes, but if you get to it first, please let me know how it goes!

You’ll need:

  • 1 C organic spelt flour*
  • 1/4 C organic coconut flour
  • 1/4 C unsweetened shredded coconut (or dessicated coconut for my new UK and AUS friends 🙂 )
  • 2 T coconut (or date) sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 3 medium eggs (I used farm fresh eggs which are typically smaller, so 2 large eggs would probably be OK, too)
  • 1 1/4 C organic whole milk
  • 1/2 C coconut oil or melted butter (organic of course!)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 C organic blueberries + more for garnish

To make:

  1. In a large bowl, mix flours, shredded coconut, sugar and baking powder.  Combine well.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, milk, coconut oil (or butter) and vanilla.
  3. Add wet ingredients into dry (make a little well in the dry ingredients to incorporate evenly and prevent too many lumps) and mix just to combine.  Resist the urge to over mix!  The batter will be slightly thicker than you’re used to because of the coconut flour.  Don’t worry.  It’ll even out when cooking.
  4. Add blueberries and stir again, gently.
  5. Heat a cast iron griddle over medium heat and melt some butter.  Using a 1/4C measuring cup, pour the batter into the pan and cook for 3-4minutes or until golden brown.  Flip pancake over, gently!  Resist the urge to press on the pancake!  It will cook evenly and quickly without any tampering. 😉
  6. Keep pancakes warm in the oven until ready to serve.
  7. Serve with a dollop of yogurt, a few fresh blueberries and your favorite sweetener such as maple syrup, date syrup or honey.
  8. Enjoy!
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Spiced Date Syrup

Yields 1-1 1/2C (about)spiced date syrup

Happy Anniversary Guaya Gourmet!

Somehow we are at our first year anniversary!  Last year when I began blogging here, Claire was 5 months old and spent most of her time in the kitchen with me in her carrier.  Now, she spends her time climbing on and off the footstool, opening drawers and cabinets and subsequently hiding my measuring cups and spoons, and helping me by mixing or adding ingredients.  Oh, and we also live in a foreign country.  A lot has changed.

Other surprises over the past year include; gathering quite a following (THANK YOU for reading and following!), developing relationships with other bloggers via social media networks, learning a ton about social media and how useful it is, learning and working with the developing taste buds and moods of a baby foodie, and being consistently amazed about the people I meet as a result of the food that inspires and delights me.

It has been a fruitful and eventful year.  And with every meal that has made it to these pages and all the meals that haven’t, we have been grateful.

That was my toast.  Now on to the real reason you’re here.

For our anniversary blog post, Claire and I thought it would be most logical to write about a local ingredient.  We miss maple syrup (along with kale) and while it is available here, it is prohibitively expensive and well, not very local.  Enter dates!

Dates are incredibly nutritious and the best part about this syrup is that it is a whole food.  You are getting the sweetener without any of the fiber removed so it is much easier assimilated and processed by the body and your body doesn’t get a shock from the sugar.

What makes dates special?  FIBER, POTASSIUM, B-COMPLEX VITAMINS, and ANTIOXIDANTS do!  Let’s do a quick recap on why we should care about these characteristics.

Fiber:  Soluble fiber (remember the peas?) dissolves and becomes gel-like traveling slowly through your digestive tract, makes you feel fuller and longer and it binds to cholesterol lingering around your body and escorts it out.

Potassium:  A mineral that is critical for muscle contraction.  So, dates are especially good if you’ve got an exercise regime you adhere to.  But, even if you don’t, you know what else is a muscle…your heart!  “A critical electrolyte, potassium allows our muscles to move, our nerves to fire, and our kidneys to filter blood. The right balance of potassium literally allows the heart to beat.”¹

B-Complex Vitamins:  This is a team of vitamins that are essential for many bodily functions such as making blood cells, maintaining blood glucose levels and they are also key for mind-related health such as mood, memory and stress.  Click here for more detailed and fascinating info.

Antioxidants:  I love these.  Dates have polyphenols which are particularly effective at protecting the body, destroying free radicals roaming around.  We’re all vulnerable to oxidative stress so you can’t ever really get too many antioxidants!

You can use this syrup in your baking, as a topping on pancakes, waffles, granola, oatmeal, yogurt, in your smoothies or even as a sweetener for your morning coffee.  However you use it, enjoy every delicious minute of it!

You’ll need:

12-15 pitted dates, Medjool or Halawii

1-1 1/2 C water- I had some coconut water so I added that, too.

3-4 (slightly crushed) cardamom pods

To make:

1.  Place pitted dates and cardamom in a bowl or jar and add just enough water to cover dates.  Let sit for at least 4 hours or as in my case, overnight.

2.  Remove cardamom pods and blend water and dates until syrup forms.  If you want, you could run it through a sieve or cheesecloth for a finer consistency.

3.  That’s it!  It will keep refrigerated for 2-3 weeks.

4.  Enjoy!

¹http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/potassium-and-your-heart

Honey Flax Banana Bread

Honey Flax Banana Bread

This was our first baking endeavour in our new kitchen with our new oven.  Besides the fact that I had missed baking, I needed to bake something to bring to our first ever dinner party in UAE…and as a family.  If you’ve never been to a dinner party with 6 kids before, you should try it.  It’s actually quite a lot of fun.  There were also chickens, cats and yes parents, too but that’s all for another post.  (Can you guess where I’ll be getting my free-range, organic eggs from?)

So, I HAD to bake something and since I’ve been working on versions of this banana bread for years now, it has become my default recipe to gift.  The only hiccup was that I could not find vanilla extract anywhere in this country.  When I commented on this seemingly odd fact, my husband reminded me that it’s because of the alcohol content.  So, no vanilla extract but loads of “vanilla flavor”…nein danke.  (If you think you’ll be seeing a recipe for homemade vanilla extract soon, you know me all too well:)

Regardless, the banana bread emerged smelling promising.  I increased the cinnamon to compensate a bit for flavor and did the same with the honey instead of using maple syrup or agave.  The result was, well let’s just say there was a lot of silence and not a crumb to be found.  This is music to any cook’s ears!

Honey is an incredible sweetener.  And, it has an incredible story.  Bees feast on flowers and carry the nectar from their feast in their mouths to the hive.  The nectar mixes with the bees’ saliva, which has special enzymes to turn it into honey.  The flutter of the busy bees’ wings provides enough air to keep the honey from collecting too much moisture, making it just perfect for us to consume!  Read more about it here.

The enzymes are why raw honey is superior to other pasteurized and processed honeys.  Honey in its raw state is chock full of anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.  It also has anti-inflammatory properties which should be ringing all kinds of bells as far as health is concerned!  (Remember, inflammation is often the root cause of MANY, MANY oft preventable illnesses.)  And, in case you were wondering, yes, there are anti-oxidants in there, too.  In ancient Egypt, honey was used to dress wounds and more recently, Manuka Honey especially is still being used as an effective treatment for burns.  Honey has a low Glycemic Index which means that the sugars enter the bloodstream slowly and steadily allowing the body time to deal with processing it.  This makes it a much healthier sweetener and one suitable for diabetics…in moderation!

It’s also a great sweetener for kids.  (Just be aware that it is advised that honey not be given to babies under one year of age.)  It’s sweet without that artificial-tasting sweet.  Trust me, it makes a difference!

You’ll need:

1 C spelt flour

1/2 C oat flour

1/4 Ground Flax Seeds

1 T cinnamon

2 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1/2 t sea salt

3 very ripe bananas

1/2 C raw honey (if you have it:)

2 large organic eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 C unrefined extra-virgin coconut oil or melted unsalted butter (organic &/or pastured if you have it:)

1/2 C chopped walnuts (optional)

To make:

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a 8.5″X4.5″ bread loaf pan with parchment paper. (I made 3 smaller ones, but this recipe will make one nice sized loaf.)

2. Mix all dry ingredients thoroughly.

3. In a medium bowl, mash bananas well, add honey and stir to combine.  Let sit for a few minutes before adding the eggs and oil (butter).  Then combine all well.

4. Make a well in the center of flour mixture and add wet mixture.  Stir to combine but don’t over mix.

5. Add mixture to loaf pan and top with walnuts.

6. Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes or until top and edges are golden brown.  It’s a good idea to turn the bread around midway through baking time for a more evenly baked and moist loaf.

7. Enjoy!

Culture Shock, Over Easy

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Right now I am in a state of shock at my culture shock.  I’ve traveled and lived in other countries before, but this recent move to Al Ain, the green oasis of the UAE, has jolted me to the core.  As most definitions of culture shock will attest, everything I know, believe, think, expect is being challenged.  I am WAY OUT of my comfort zone.

The thing about culture shock is that it’s a cocktail mixed with a bunch of other things. It stirs up emotions you didn’t think you had, fears that were previously unknown and prejudices you thought you were too open-minded to have.  Yet they’re all there and they come up when you least expect them to and they push you to overcome them. Everyday.

When you’re uncomfortable, you seek comfort wherever you can find it.  It may be in a stranger’s smile or a song you hear.  It may be a Starbucks you spotted or a re-run of Modern Family.  It could just be the sunrise and the sense of possibility of a new day.  That’s what it usually is for me.  That and breakfast.  On our 3rd morning at the Hilton, Claire and I went down for breakfast and were greeted by the organic section of the buffet!  Organic!  Little surprises like these go a long way.  Now that we’re “home” in our apartment, it’s a cup of tea with 2 eggs over easy over rice and sauteed spinach (at home, in the USA, it would be kale).

In the quiet morning, with a delicious breakfast, I can gather myself and prepare to start fresh, again.  It’s what’s required when you’re in the midst of culture shock because all things, large and small, are different.  And, you notice them all!  It’s also a time of slowness and when I can really watch Claire.  It has been incredibly helpful to be with a child.  Claire notices things are different (she hasn’t seen many women wearing abayas or men in dishdashes before) but she doesn’t judge anything as good or bad.  She notices and she looks (sometimes stares in a way that only kids can get away with) but then quickly returns to whatever is occupying her attention at the moment.  When she hears the prayer calls, she simply does her sign language for “music”.  Music!  That’s exactly what it is, that’s all it is.  When she hears our cab driver speaking in Urdu, she laughs.  And he usually laughs back.

Little by little the differences are overcome by the similarities.  It seems impossible now because as soon as you walk out the door everything is hard, but it happens.  I know it does because it’s happened before.  It just takes time, patience, some laughter and deep breaths and lots of the tea you’ll find below!  Then, allow yourself to be surprised and you will be.

A few days ago we went to one of the malls, (much nicer and with so many of the same stores as back home), and I spotted a woman covered head to toe in her black abaya and hijab (head scarf), but with her face visible to all.  She was also wearing TOMS, just like I was.  As they say in Vietnam, “same, same but different”.  Indeed we are.

Miracle Tea*

1/2 oz. each of dried chamomile flowers, dried lemon balm, dried catnip leaves and dried lavender flowers.  Combine all the herbs and seal in a mason jar.

To prepare:

Place 1 T of the mixture in a glass jar and cover with 1 C boiling water.  Steep for 15 minutes and ENJOY!

*This tea has helped me plenty.  It’s from Aviva Romm‘s book, Naturally Health Babies and Children.  She calls it “teething tea” which we’ve used several times and has done wonders for as well.  It’s soothing, comforting and positively dreamy.  I re-named it Miracle Tea because it is miraculously calming!  Thank you, Aviva!

Sámara Organics Market and Café

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Playa Sámara is a beautiful beach on the southwestern coast of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica.  It is an unassuming place, laid back, sleepy even but the beach (and nearby beaches, too) is nothing short of AMAZING.  The same goes for the locals in town, the Ticos (native Costa Ricans) and expats alike.

The first time we visited was nearly 8 years ago.  We loved it.  We got married there.  It’s fair to say that Sámara holds a special place in our hearts and so we promised we’d return with our first baby.

Claire loved it as much as we did; the white sand, the calm and warm waters, the Pura Vida attitude that permeates each moment.  We were happy to see that not that much had changed in 8 years.  No Club Meds just yet.  What we did find that was new was an organic café and market.  Let me reiterate with proper emotion:  An ORGANIC CAFE AND MARKET IN SAMARA!!!  I met Angelina, one of the founders, and immediately felt a kinship with her.  The kind you feel when you’re part of a community that has no boundaries.  Ours happens to be about the food we eat and our interest in making the best choices for our own health, that of our families’ and that of the planet we inhabit.  It’s about our shared understanding about the true meaning behind ‘organic’ and ‘sustainable’ and the responsibility we feel to feed our bodies well, to share what we know, and to respect the Earth that bears our food, all of it.  It’s a wonderful feeling to travel the world and meet people like Angelina who are making a difference, one small step at a time, to better their communities.

Sàmara Organics is a lovely market and café that serves up delicious salads, sandwiches, soups and fresh fruit and vegetable juices.  They also serve the native gallo pinto for breakfast!  It’s a foodie’s paradise tucked away in this little beach town.  I was SO grateful to Angelina and her passion for organic food especially because we had a new little eater with us.  I was also so inspired by her story.  I knew you would be too, so here is a short conversation about Sàmara Organics.

And, if you’re ever in the area, DO stop by for some delicious food and drinks and please tell Angelina we say hello.

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GG:  What was the food situation like as far as organic vs. conventional food before you started Samara Organics?

Angelina:  We moved to Samara about six years ago.  At that time we could find no organic food except in AutoMercado, 4-5 hours from here.  They had organic produce, soy products and other non-meat alternatives.  It was very exciting.  With a year or so of that we could find soy, almond, and rice milks which was a real treat.  For years we talked of opening a market to offer the products that we previously had stuffed our luggage with and smuggled down.  About two years ago I made some connections with folks from the Nosara Farmer’s Market and found locally made cheeses and organically grown produce.  I organized a mail list and started to sell it out of my car essentially with no mark up.  Just passing it along directly to other folks interested in the same.  The response was light but there were some folks.  The challenge with Samara, unlike Nosara, is our community is less affluent with less discretionary income so it was and still is a challenge to get folks to pay double for organic produce or cheese that are made without preservatives.  We really try to impress upon folks the importance of buying local – not only for the benefits of conserving our global resources but also the long term benefit of supporting a sustainable economy for our area.

GG:  What percentage of the food is locally grown/produced vs. imported?

Angelina:  Good question.  Organic produce remains a very small percentage of what is grown.  Monsanto has a foothold here and farmers can make more money by growing conventional.  We have a few imported items that we offer only to bring people in.  And, really even imported produce is a better option than some of the other snack food options with high fructose corn syrup that so many of our locals and expats turn to for a quick bite.  It is all trade offs and as one of my professors taught me…”learn to live with your contradictions”.  We don’t strive to be purists…we strive to offer healthy alternatives that support the locals that make responsible business decisions.  Our store gives us the opportunity to educate, to be there and teach and share when the light comes on about how to feel better through diet.

GG:  Are Ticos interested or aware of the organic label?

Angelina:  Very few.  The same is true for most expats.  The tourists are the ones that get it.  I am grateful for these tourists as we would not be in business without them.  We are, however, learning that we need to find different ways to reach the community because they haven’t a strong enough connection to the value of organics. Plus media gives them an out by running articles that state there are no real proven benefits of organic produce.  Please…  Also, here organic designation is prohibitively expensive for the small farmers so even if they are pesticide free they still don’t have certification.

GG:  What are the standards for the organic label in Costa Rica?

Angelina:  We have done some farming here however not to the level where we have been able to dedicate resources to understanding the certification of the law.  It remains the frontier here in Costa Rica in so many ways and cultural dynamics make it difficult at times to ascertain procedures, protocols, etc.

GG:  Who are your purveyors and how do you ensure organic practices?

Angelina:  We know of two distributors that sell organics and they have direct relationships with the famers and the produce comes with “organic” labeling.  At this stage we have not had any farm visits except for one and really the distributors are not eager to share their sources as there is more demand than there is produce to go around.

GG:  What are your biggest challenges?  Especially being in a foreign country!

Angelina:  Costs.  Costs continue to rise here as the popularity of this beautiful country increases.  Fixed income retirees don’t want to spend the money and many are often fixed in their beliefs so they don’t see the value.  We are grateful for the toursits but really our biggest challenge is finding easy access to quality product at an affordable price.  We have a fantastic organic produce distributor in San Jose but it costs us $150 to get the produce to our store – this is more than we make on the order.  We usually run a loss on our produce to just bring people in and compete with conventional produce often offered by the Walmart Pali stores that have huge purchasing power.

GG:  Was there anything easy about getting started?

Angelina:  Ha, not a thing! But, super rewarding to meet people like you that get it and are so grateful that they found us and they have this choice.  Many have commented it was the one thing missing for the idyllic Samara.  This makes us very happy.  We are close to going all vegetarian and offering some raw food options but again our tiny pueblo really just isn’t ready for it.

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GG:  It’s often assumed that food is better outside of the U.S. because there are probably fewer factory farms and mono-culture farms.  Is this true for Costa Rica?  For example, is the meat better because it comes from some small farm nearby where cows are probably fed grasses, etc.?

 Angelina:  In some ways this is true as chemicals are expensive and there are many here that still do it the “old way” but just the same studies show that use of pesticides continues to grow here in CR and with that it becomes cheaper and cheaper to do the wrong thing.

GG:  How and where did you start?  How did you know the food wasn’t organically grown?

Angelina:  I have had a varied and fulfulling career.  Before I left the US I worked as an Executive Director for a nonprofit environmental education group that offered free services to kids.  I have been into the movement for a very long time and my commitment has only increased over the years.  We opened the store about a year ago and have a long way to go and big dreams but we are also becoming more realistic about what we can accomplish.  Generally if were buying produce from a store we assumed it was conventional and I think that was a safe bet.  Chemical companies are deeply engrained throughout the world and working hard to stay in business.  It is almost punishing to run against this strong infrastructure.

Honey Cinnamon Cashew Butter

(with a touch of nutmeg)

Makes about 1 C

honey cinnamon cashew butter

I’ve already learned a few things this year:  1.  Recycled resolutions are just as good as new ones, 2. Writing your goals down is a good practice, 3. Starting the New Year without any kind of hangover is the best way to go and 4. Claire Berlin has a food addiction.  Her addiction is to cashew butter.

I made a bunch of these Honey Cinnamon Cashew Butters as host/hostess gifts over the holidays and was lucky to have a few jars left over.  Now that Claire is past the 1 year mark, nuts and honey are foods that have moved to the OK list.  She seems very pleased with that!  As far as food addictions go, this one isn’t so terrible.  It makes a great nutritious snack with some celery sticks or apples, for babies and adults alike.

Cashews are the lesser known nut in the nut butter melange.  Peanuts obviously, but then almonds took over as the go-to nut butter.  And for good reason!  But cashews, oh cashews are mild, sweet and delicate in flavor.  They are so rich, too.  Cashews are MY go-to nut, especially when I’m making nut milk and butter.  Have you ever tried ice cream made from cashew milk?  It’s heavenly!

Cashews are originally Brazilian though we do get cashews from East Africa as well.  Have you ever noticed that you never see cashews in their shell?  It’s because their shell contains a toxic oil called cardol, which like its relative poison ivy, burns the skin if you touch it.¹  So, they roast the cashews, crack off the shell and roast again and voilà, they’re safe for consumption!

As far as nuts go, cashews have much less fat than other nuts and, most of its fat is unsaturated.  Cashews’ fatty acids contains oleic acid which promotes good cardiovascular health.  They are also high in antioxidants which may seem surprising.  Cashews are high in copper and magnesium.  Copper “plays a role in a wide range of physiological processes including iron utilization, elimination of free radicals, development of bone and connective tissue, and the production of the skin and hair pigment called melanin“²  Likewise, magnesium is responsible for several functions in the body including balancing our calcium intake, as well as regulating nerve and muscle tone.²  And, contrary to what many believe, nuts help you lose weight, NOT gain it!  (Any resolutions coming to mind??)

So, jump start your resolutions and/or goals this year with a spoonful of this sweet, creaminess!  Your heart will thank you, your bones will thank you, your cells will thank you, your waistline will thank you and your taste buds will simply adore you.  Not a bad way to start the new year!

Happy Cooking and Happy New Year, friends!

You’ll need:

2 C raw, organic cashews

3/4 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t (scant) nutmeg, freshly grated, if possible

2 t honey

2-3 T organic coconut oil*

To make:

1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until it resembles nut butter.

2. This sounds easy but it takes some time.  You’ll have to stop the food processor several times to scrape down the sides and bottom.  You may also have to adjust the oil for a creamier texture or add more nuts if you want a chunkier, thicker butter.

3. Place in small jars to give away or save it all for yourself!

4. Enjoy, Enjoy!

*Because of the use of the coconut oil, the cashew butter will get hard after it’s been in the fridge for a while.  It can be made without it, but the texture will be much thicker.

¹Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia

² http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=98

Pumpkin Oat Waffles

Makes 12 waffles

One of the pluses of all this crazy weather is that there’s plenty of time to use up all that fresh pumpkin puree sitting in my fridge AND freezer!  I’ve had my fill of pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cookies.  It’s pretty amazing all the places pumpkin sneaks its way into!  I needed a more creative way to use my pumpkin puree and waffles for breakfast was the answer.

One of the things about pumpkin in everything is pumpkin spice.  There are many variations but most have varying amounts of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves.  I took a slightly different route and added ground cardamom and freshly grated nutmeg.  For me it made a world of difference and really woke my tastebuds up!  The other thing that made a difference is FRESH pumpkin puree.  It’s a bit of work, but if done ahead, you’ll have a ton of it for all your recipes, for a while.  And, as always, the hard work is worth it.

The yellow/orange color of pumpkin screams of carotenoids.  Carotenoids are a group of organic pigments found in plants and are responsible for the yellow, orange and red color of vegetables and fruit.  The most popular of the carotenoids are beta-carotene (alpha and gamma, too), lycopene and lutein.  How are they good for us?  Well, carotenoids are powerful anti-oxidants, protecting our cells from free radical damage.  They have anti-cancer properties and play a significant role in inter-cellular communication.  “Researchers now believe that poor communication between cells may be one of the causes of the overgrowth of cells, a condition which eventually leads to cancer. By promoting proper communication between cells, carotenoids may play a role in cancer prevention.”¹  Carotenoids also enhance immune function as well as reproductive processes.  All good reasons to incorporate these colored vegetables into your diet!  (Start with these waffles!)

I also made these waffles for Claire.  I opted for coconut milk and a blend of gluten-free flours (1/2 C oat flour, 3/4 C all-purpose gluten-free flour and 1/4 C coconut flour).  I diced a waffle and topped with fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg and a drizzle of coconut oil.  She LOVES this breakfast.  She’ll eat both the GF/dairy-free version as well as this recipe below with the same enthusiasm.  Yay!

You’ll need:

1 1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 C rolled oats

2 T coconut sugar

2 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t ground ginger

1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 t ground cardamom

a pinch of sea salt

1 C milk (or buttermilk if you have it!) – Any nut milk will also work well here.

3 large eggs, at room temperature*

1 C fresh pumpkin puree

2 T coconut oil

1 t vanilla

To make:

1.  Preheat oven to 180° (to keep waffles warm) and prepare your waffle iron.

2.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and soda, spices and salt.  Whisk to blend well.

3.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, pumpkin puree, coconut oil and vanilla.

4.  Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir gently until you reach a smooth batter.

5.  Lightly grease your waffle iron with some coconut oil (or butter if you’re going in that other yummy direction) and add about 1/4- 1/3 cup of batter and spread it to the corners.  Close the lid and let waffles cook until they’re golden brown, until the light on your waffle iron goes off, or roughly about 3-4 minutes!  (It’s best to follow the directions for your specific waffle iron.)

6.  Put waffles in the oven to keep warm while you repeat the process.

7.  Top the waffles with spiced fruit, maple syrup, whipped cream (or whipped coconut cream) or have some over easy eggs with them.

8.  Enjoy!!

*If you have the time and are so inclined, separate the eggs and whisk the yolks with the other wet ingredients.  Beat the egg whites with an electric hand mixer (or whisk if you’re brave!) until soft peaks form.  After you mix the egg yolk/pumpkin mixture with the flour mixture and get the smooth batter, fold in the egg whites.  You’ll get a fluffier waffle!

Claire’s Breakfast

¹ http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=116